The Pursuit of Happiness
According to a survey conducted by the World Health Organization, the United States is among the world’s most emotionally depressed countries; we’re second to only France with nineteen percent of our population experiencing major depressive episodes. Furthermore, the Center for Disease Control reports that eleven percent of all Americans are on some form of antidepressant medication. The report indicates that four percent of American adolescent girls and twenty percent of American women between the ages 40 and 59 take antidepressants. In total, the number of Americans on mood medication increased by over 400 percent since 1994.
This doesn’t make any sense! The United States was established on the right to pursue happiness, and every indication suggests that the current generation of Americans is pursuing happiness with more vigor than ever before. If we’re more affluent, spend more and have more than any other generation in our history, why is America so unhappy?
The Declaration of Independence proclaims that we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, while more and more Americans enthusiastically pursue these rights, fewer and fewer of us truly understand and appreciate the source of those rights!
Jefferson asserts that our rights and freedoms come from God. They are gifts from the creator of the universe, and the divine architect who set in motion the evolution of the human race. It is a revelation that freed the common man and gave rise to the most prosperous nation in the history of the world. We owe OUR life, liberty and happiness to God. It is a humbling and awe inspiring truth, and is why faith has always been an integral part of our national character.
During the American Revolution, our Founding Fathers appealed to the Supreme Judge of the World in our struggle for independence. Our faith has seen us through a civil war, two World Wars, and countless other conflicts. It has sustained us in time of great depression, civil unrest and natural disaster. We have always been a people of faith because we are a nation built upon the Judeo-Christian ethic, and the truth that all men are created equal by God.
However, over the past 50 years there has been a considerable decline in the number of Americans who believe in God. Today only 76 percent of Americans consider themselves Christian, down from 86 percent in 1990, and 20 percent of the population has no religious affiliation whatsoever. Sadly, America is losing her faith. We are becoming a secular state that no longer has time for God, and this just might be the cause of our national psychosis.
Without faith, there is no moral compass to guide and sustain society. Principles and values give way to what’s popular and politically correct. The culture becomes materialistic, success and happiness are dependent upon status, and an individual’s self-worth is measured by the number of friends they have on Facebook. Parents are failures if their child fails to gain admission to an Ivy League College, and our lives are some how unfulfilled if we don’t achieve our 15 minutes of fame. We’re suffering the effects of secularism, the loneliness and despair that emerge when God is removed from society.
There is an understanding of the truth that can only be revealed by faith. It is the acknowledgement that each of us is purposefully created by God for a particular reason, and our success and ultimate happiness in life depends upon our discovery of, and fulfillment of that purpose. Those willing to embrace this truth will find the strength to look beyond their own concerns, take possession of their lives, and find the harmony and happiness that are only available in faith. Those unwilling to accept this truth will stumble through life forever trying to find purpose and meaning in a material existence, and will be unable to undertake the journey that makes life worth living. It is no coincidence that our epidemic of depression parallels our loss of faith.
The Founding Fathers who drafted and signed the Declaration of Independence understood this truth. They were men of means; well educated, successful and propertied. When they signed the Declaration, they pledge to each other their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Of the 56 men who signed; 5 were captured, tortured and killed, 9 fought and died from their wounds; 12 had their property seized, homes burned and were financially ruined, and others lost children and spouses in our fight for independence. They were men of great faith, willing to pay the price and make the sacrifices necessary to ensure that those who came after them could enjoy the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness with which the Supreme Judge of the World has endowed us.